Each year, National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week increases awareness of lead poisoning and highlights ways parents and communities can reduce children’s exposure to lead.
Lead is a highly toxic substance that can produce harmful effects in nearly all organ systems in the body. About 3.3 million American households, including 2.1 million low-income households, have children under 6 years of age who live in homes with lead exposure hazards. There is no safe blood lead level in children.
Children with blood lead levels can experience delayed growth and development, damage to the brain and nervous system, learning and behavior problems, and a host of other health-related problems. The problem is largely preventable with increased testing, education, and a focus on prevention.
The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) recommends that all children in Iowa get a blood lead test at 1 and 2 years of age; and screened for testing at 6, 9, 15, 18, and 30 months of age. To help increase testing rates for children under 3 years in age, especially children in high-risk areas of the state, the IDPH has revised its Childhood Lead Poisoning Risk Questionnaire and Blood Lead Testing Guidelines to be shorter and easier to use and understand. This screening tool is intended to be used by health care providers for all children at well child visits between 6 months and 6 years of age. The revised screening tool can be found on the IDPH web site.
The updates were made by IDPH in partnership with the Iowa Institute of Public Health Research and Policy (IIPHRP) based in the University of Iowa College of Public Health and the Childhood Lead Advisory Workgroup, a group of pediatricians, nurses, public health professionals, housing officials, elected officials, and other stakeholders.
“We worked with a statewide multidisciplinary workgroup that developed and endorsed the new screening tool and guidelines,” says Vickie Miene, interim director of the IIPHRP. “Childhood lead exposure is still a risk in Iowa, yet many people think it’s no longer an issue. Testing for lead poisoning is important because if you don’t test, you can’t diagnose. If you don’t diagnose, you can’t intervene.”
Lead can be found inside and outside the home, including in the water that travels through lead pipes or in the soil around the house. However, the most common source of exposure for children in Iowa is from lead-based paint, which was used in many homes built before 1978. Adults and children can get lead into their bodies by breathing in or swallowing lead dust, especially during activities such as renovations or repairs.
“There is the perception that when we talk about older housing stock having a risk for lead, we mean really old–like Victorian homes. In reality, housing stock built until 1979 has lead, but people don’t necessarily perceive those homes as ‘older,’” Miene says.
Children can also become exposed to lead dust from adults’ jobs or hobbies and from some metal toys or toys painted with lead-based paint. Children are not exposed equally to lead, nor suffer its consequences in the same way. These disparities unduly burden minority families and low-income families and their communities.
For more information about testing your home for lead, obtaining a blood lead test for your child, or preventing exposure to lead, visit https://idph.iowa.gov/Environmental-Health-Services/Childhood-Lead-Poisoning-Prevention.
MEDIA CONTACT: Kevin Officer, Manager, Iowa Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program; Phone: (515) 724-3139, Email: email@example.com